PHOENIX — Arizona restaurant owners are voicing concern and opposition to a state Senate bill that would allow the carrying of concealed weapons in establishments that serve alcohol. Some believe that Senate Bill 1113 would make bars and restaurants more dangerous, place undue burden on restaurant owners and result in a negative image for the local and state tourism industry.
“People realize alcohol and guns don’t mix,” said Al McCarthy, owner of Duke’s Sports Bar & Grill in Scottsdale. McCarthy said he’s prepared if the bill becomes law to post signs telling customers to leave their guns outside.
“I will get the biggest, brightest sign I can get up the hour it passes, if this does (pass),” McCarthy said. “I just pray that Gov. Brewer uses good judgment. We are a tourist-destination place. We need tourism. If she thinks this is going to look better to tourists ... I think these people are crazy.”
The Republican-led Senate passed the bill last week. It next moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. The bill would make Arizona the 40th state to allow firearms in dining establishments that serve alcohol.
The bill would affect about 3,000 Arizona bars and restaurants licensed to serve alcohol, according to Bill Weigele, president of the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, said that the proximity of firearms and alcohol was “not inherently evil” and that the bill protects gun owners’ Second Amendment rights.
Harper said that bringing a gun into a restaurant would be no different from carrying one into a retail establishment.
Sen. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix, who owns Cheuvront Restaurant and Wine Bar in Phoenix, disagrees. “As the only lawmaker who has a liquor establishment, there is a difference between a Wal-Mart, where people are going to be purchasing liquor, and restaurants, where liquor is going to be consumed on the premises,” he said.
A restaurant trade group said support for the bill appears to be sparse among restaurateurs.
“I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find people who are for it,” said Sherry Gillespie, government-relations manager for the Arizona Restaurant Association, which officially has taken a neutral stance on the bill.
Supporters said SB 1113 contains concessions from similar legislation proposed in years past. Rather than allowing “open carries,” the bill restricts the gun owner to concealed weapons, which require a training process and a permit.
The bill also requires that the gun owner not drink inside an establishment serving alcohol.
Penalties for drinking while carrying a concealed weapon, including a maximum fine of $300, would fall on the drinker, not the server or the owner of the establishment.
Still, restaurant and bar owners said it might he hard to determine who is packing a weapon and who is not.